Our Professional License Defense Team Can Help Protect Your Nursing License in Illinois
For a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Registered Nurse (RN), or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) in Illinois, few things can be more demoralizing than finding out you have been accused of misconduct and your Illinois nurse's license is in jeopardy. You've committed a great deal of time and effort toward mastering your profession and building your career, and even more years of practice building trust with your patients and colleagues. Now, all that hard work and effort could effectively be erased by a single complaint.
In the State of Illinois, most licensed professions are regulated centrally by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), and the state Board of Nursing operates under the umbrella of the IDFPR. If someone files a complaint against you, the IDFPR is obligated to investigate the complaint thoroughly and issue disciplinary action as needed to protect public safety. Your nursing license is indelibly linked to your livelihood; it's your professional passport to employment in physicians' offices, hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare institutions. But if the IDFPR finds sufficient proof of wrongdoing, you might be exposed to severe penalties, including the possible revocation of your license. Without a license, you have no career.
Professional License Defense for Illinois Nurses
The good news is that all is not lost if your license comes under scrutiny. By hiring an experienced professional license defense attorney at the first sign of trouble, you have a realistic chance of resolving the complaint and keeping your license intact. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team bring a wealth of experience assisting nurses nationwide who are confronted with similar challenges. They know the workings of the IDFPR, and they can combine their honed negotiation skills with years of experience to secure the most favorable outcome possible for your case. To arrange a consultation, reach out to the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.
Allegations that May Threaten Your Nursing License in Illinois
Nurses in Illinois are expected to adhere to the high ethical and professional standards set forth in the Nurse Practice Act. Most license-threatening allegations have to do with some breach of these regulations or some significant violation of public trust. Common offenses include, but are not limited to:
- Sexual misconduct. Inappropriate sexual behavior or even consensual romantic relationships with patients are usually grounds for license suspension or revocation—not only because they constitute an ethical breach but because they violate the trust needed for the often-intimate nature of nurse-patient interactions.
- Drug mismanagement or misuse. Any deviation from drug administration rules, such as diversion of patients' medications, drug misuse, careless inventory handling, or unauthorized or fraudulent prescriptions, can trigger disciplinary actions.
- Substance abuse. Nurses are expected to practice with a clear head and sound judgment, so evidence of substance abuse can cost you your nurse's license.
- Patient abuse or neglect. Accusations of any form of patient mistreatment or actions that unnecessarily endanger a patient can put your license at risk.
- Fraud. Deceptive practices, such as falsifying patient records, misrepresentation of qualifications, or submitting inaccurate or inflated bills to insurers, can lead to license revocation.
- Criminal convictions. Felony convictions or any other crime reflecting moral turpitude could make you ineligible for a nursing license in Illinois. Furthermore, failure to self-report a criminal conviction to IDFPR could lead to disciplinary action, even if the offense itself does not warrant disciplinary measures.
Alternative Disciplinary Actions to License Revocation
While you should expect that any allegation of misconduct could result in loss of license, the IDFPR can (and often does) agree to impose lesser disciplinary actions depending on the specifics of the alleged offense, the supporting evidence, etc. These sanctions could include the following:
- License suspension. This prevents you from practicing nursing for a determined or indeterminate period but also affords an opportunity to have your license restored.
- Probation or practice restrictions. The IDFPR can restrict you from certain activities or place you under supervision.
- Remediation. You might be required to complete continuing education courses as a precondition to keeping your license if the violation stemmed from an educational gap.
- Alternative-to-discipline programs. In instances involving substance abuse, the Board might mandate your attendance to a recovery program or as a condition to keep your license.
- Fines. The Board may enforce a monetary penalty.
- Reprimand/Letter of Concern. For less serious offenses, the IDFPR might issue a formal warning, which may or may not appear on your professional record but doesn't restrict your license.
Any Disciplinary Action Can Have Detrimental Career Effects
Even if your license isn't suspended or revoked, any minor action can still negatively impact your career, as these actions are often made public. Prospective employers anywhere in the country might conduct a state license search or consult the Nursys database for any disciplinary actions on your license, which could influence their hiring decision. However, under certain conditions, the State of Illinois may permit disciplinary actions to be kept off the public record. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team can often advocate for a resolution that may help maintain a clean, professional record.
Areas We Serve in Illinois
The State of Illinois is the crossroads of the Midwest, serving as home to nearly 12.5 million people. As such, the state offers many professional opportunities for licensed nurses who remain in high demand in healthcare facilities across the state. The Lento Law Firm can help with licensing issues for nurses in any municipality in Illinois, but most of our clients live and work in the following population centers of the state.
Located along the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan, Chicago (aka "The Windy City") is the third-largest city in America behind New York City and Los Angeles. While the population of the city proper is 2.7 million people, the sprawling metropolitan area surrounding it (affectionately called "Chicagoland") is home to a combined 9.6 million people—more than 75 percent of the state's population. Chicago is a major hub for commerce, technology, finance, and culture, notable for its rich history, including significant contributions to jazz and blues music, an array of world-class museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago, and a distinct culinary scene that includes the famous deep-dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dog. Numerous healthcare systems provide services to Chicago and its vicinity, including the University of Illinois Health, Sinai Chicago, Loyola Medicine, Northwest Community Healthcare, and others.
Rockford is a city of 151,000 people located about 90 miles northwest of Chicago and serves as the county seat for Winnebago County. As the largest city in the state outside Chicagoland, Rockford boasts a rich industrial history and is known for its manufacturing sector, especially in the aerospace industry. The city is home to the Rockford Art Museum, the Discovery Center Museum, and the Burpee Museum of Natural History, which collectively offer a diverse range of cultural and educational experiences. Healthcare systems in Rockford include Mercyhealth (which administers Rockford Memorial Hospital) and UW Health (which administers SwedishAmerican Hospital and related facilities).
The state capital of Illinois is Springfield, located about 180 miles south of Chicago, with a population of 116,000 people. The historical home of Abraham Lincoln, Springfield houses the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and serves as a major tourist destination for its myriad of historic attractions. Springfield is also home to several colleges and universities, such as the University of Illinois Springfield, which offers numerous healthcare-related degree programs. Most of the city's notable healthcare facilities reside near the town center in the Mid-Illinois Medical District, including Springfield Memorial Hospital and HSHS St. John's Hospital.
Home to about 115,000 people, Peoria is located on the Illinois River about 160 miles southwest of downtown Chicago. The oldest European settlement in Illinois, Peoria was originally founded by French explorers in 1691. Today, Peoria embodies a vibrant riverfront culture with a variety of dining, shopping, and outdoor recreational activities. It's also known as a regional hub for medical services and is home to the largest Caterpillar Inc. manufacturing facility. Healthcare systems in Peoria include OSF HealthCare (which administers Saint Francis Medical Center) and Carle (formerly UnityPoint).
The "twin" cities of Champaign and Urbana host a metropolitan area in east-central Illinois with a combined population of 222,000 people. Champaign-Urbana is home to the University of Illinois flagship campus and serves as an important center for culture, education, and technology. In addition to its many cultural attractions, Champaign-Urbana offers a variety of healthcare services through organizations such as Carle, OSF Healthcare, and Christie Clinic.
The License Defense Process for Nurses in Illinois
The IDFPR applies a standardized methodology for investigating and enforcing license discipline over all the professions it regulates--including nurses. If you're a licensed nurse in Illinois who has been accused of misconduct, you can expect the disciplinary process to move through the following stages.
The disciplinary procedure begins when someone files a complaint against you with the IDFPR. Allegations can be made by any member of the public, but when it comes to nurses, most complaints typically originate from patients, their families, colleagues, other healthcare providers, or anyone who suspects your conduct has breached nursing protocols. Once the IDFPR receives and processes the complaint, you'll be sent an official notification in writing.
Next, the IDFPR will appoint an investigator to gather information and look for evidence to corroborate the complaint. This stage typically involves questioning the person making the complaint and any witnesses, issuing document subpoenas, and interviewing you to get your side of the story. If the investigator fails to gather sufficient evidence, the IDFPR might opt to close the case at this point. However, if enough evidence is discovered, the case moves forward.
If the Department investigator finds corroborating evidence, they will refer the matter to the prosecuting attorney for review. If the prosecutor finds probable cause based on the evidence, a formal complaint will be issued. You'll be notified of the charges in writing and summoned to appear before the IDFPR.
In many cases, the IDFPR may invite you to meet with them informally in an attempt to resolve the complaint without a formal hearing. Your attorney may appear with you at this conference. While the informal conference opens the door to negotiating a mutually agreeable settlement (including consent orders or a dismissal of the complaint), the other side of the coin is that you may waive your right to an administrative hearing with any agreed-upon disciplinary action. The informal conference can be a great way to settle the complaint, but we strongly advise against attending one without your attorney present to negotiate for you.
If the informal conference goes well, it typically ends with a consent order, which is an agreement between you and the IDFPR. This document outlines any disciplinary action that may be imposed on you for the alleged misconduct, imposes conditions for keeping your nurse's license, and/or outlines conditions for reinstatement of your license.
Formal Administrative Hearing
If the informal conference yields no agreement (or if the IDFPR doesn't invite you to an informal conference), the next step is to summon you to attend a formal inquiry in front of an Administrative Law Judge (preferably with your attorney present) to demonstrate why you should be allowed to retain your nursing license. Both parties may provide evidence and cross-examine witnesses, and it's strongly advised to secure legal representation for this proceeding. Upon the conclusion of the inquiry, the Judge will issue a "Report and Recommendation" for disciplinary action. The Department will then make a final decision on whether to adopt all or part of the Report and Recommendation and issue disciplinary action.
If you disagree with the Report and Recommendation, you have 20 days to request a re-hearing before the Department Director makes a final determination. Once the disciplinary action is finalized, if you believe the IDFPR has violated administrative law or due process in coming to their decision, you have 35 days to appeal the case to your local circuit court.
The good news is that throughout this disciplinary process, a skilled attorney will find ample opportunities to negotiate a favorable resolution that enables you to keep your license, often avoiding a formal hearing entirely. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm is highly skilled in such negotiations, regularly aiding clients to settle complaints before they escalate to the later stages.
What If You Ignore the Complaint?
Even if you believe the complaint against you is trivial or frivolous, failure to respond appropriately typically culminates in the worst possible outcome. The IDFPR views non-response as a tacit admission of guilt, and ignoring a complaint or failing to attend a hearing will likely result in a default judgment against you, most likely resulting in loss of license. Whether you are guilty or innocent of the allegations, ignoring the complaint is the worst thing you can do for your career. On the other hand, involving our team early in the process improves the likelihood of resolving your case with little to no harm to your nursing career.
The Nurse Licensure Compact and License Discipline
The Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) is a multistate agreement that establishes uniform practice norms and allows nurses to obtain a "multistate license" to practice in any state participating in the Compact without requiring individual licenses for each state. Illinois is currently considering legislation to allow the state to enter the eNLC, but at the time of this writing, nurses in Illinois don't have the option to obtain a multistate license under the eNLC. To practice in other states, you'll have to obtain separate nursing licenses in each of those states.
That being said, you should be aware that if you are licensed to practice nursing in other states, any disciplinary action taken against you in those states can also impact your nursing license in Illinois. The IDFPR can access Nursys, the national reporting database for nurse licensure, and they have been known to impose additional sanctions on licensed nurses based on the information contained there.
Due to the complexities of disciplinary actions across multiple states, it makes sense to hire a professional license defense firm with a national scope. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team can defend nursing licenses nationwide and can even help you navigate possible actions against your license in multiple states. Not only can the Lento Law Firm help resolve complaints before they become part of your licensure record, but where applicable state laws permit, they can negotiate to keep your disciplinary records sealed and private, reducing the chance that disciplinary action in one state could impact you in another.
How the Lento Law Firm Can Help Safeguard Your Nursing License
In most license defense cases for nurses, there's no presumption of innocence—and that puts you immediately at a disadvantage as soon as a complaint is filed. Remember, the IDFPR's primary obligation is to assure public safety, and they have the authority to impose discipline based only on a preponderance of the evidence. For this reason, it's highly unadvisable to try and resolve a complaint without the help of an experienced attorney.
When facing allegations of professional misconduct, not every attorney is adequately equipped to guide you through the disciplinary procedure. Administrative law differs from other types of legal practice, and only an experienced professional license defense attorney will understand what the IDFPR is seeking, what the regulations are, and how to negotiate effectively on your behalf. That's where the Lento Law Firm can help.
Our Professional License Defense Team can considerably improve your odds of keeping your nursing license while also mitigating the impact of any other penalties to your career. We can evaluate the facts and evidence, assess the strength of the complaint against you, aid in evidence compilation, assemble witnesses if required, and negotiate the most beneficial terms of resolution with the IDFPR. In many, if not most cases, we can help you get the complaint resolved before it ever reaches a formal hearing—but if the issue does proceed to a hearing, we understand how to present your case convincingly to achieve the best result.
Reliable Professional License Attorney for Illinois Nurses
If you are a nurse in Illinois facing misconduct allegations, you substantially improve your chances of a positive outcome by securing a professional license attorney as early as possible in the process. Some nurses delay hiring an attorney until a formal hearing is scheduled, not realizing that they may have already missed numerous chances for a more lenient resolution. The earlier you hire the Lento Law Firm, the more opportunities there are to negotiate a more beneficial outcome.
You've dedicated too much to your nursing career to have it derailed by accusations of wrongdoing. Whether the complaint arises from a simple misunderstanding, error, lapse in judgment, or a baseless accusation, don't risk your future by going through the process alone.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team bring many years of experience to the table, having dealt with many professional license defense cases nationwide. We will work tirelessly to preserve both your nursing license and your career. To discuss your case and your options, call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or reach out via our online contact form.